I finally couldn't take it anymore.
"This book is boring!"
"This work is hard!"
"We have homework again tonight?"
All the complaining became way too much for me to take. While I try to make my class as interesting and relevant to my students as possible, I can't please everyone at the same time. But, it started to seem like I couldn't please any of the students. They get to choose the books they read and then they would complain that the book they chose was boring. If I asked them to write a page, they would complain that it was too much to write. If I asked them to put their thoughts in one sentence, they would complain that they couldn't possibly do that in such a short amount of space.
There was no pleasing them.
I decided that I had to address the issue with a lesson: At the beginning of class, we discussed what complaining was and what complaining wasn't. I started to see a pattern develop ... it seemed like they felt you wouldn't complain when you were happy with something. I asked, "Can you be unhappy but still not complain?" There was a pause and they finally said, "Yes."
After defining "complaining," we discussed all the things we complain about. The list was long. With every class, some smart aleck said, "We complain about Mr. Fredrick!" and laughter ensued. I wrote it down and said, "You know what I always complain about?" I put my body in front of the chart paper and wrote, "STUDENTS" really big. When I stepped out of the paper, they all laughed again.
I then passed out quotes about having a positive attitude. They worked in groups to put the quotes into their own words and we shared their work. Most of the quotes surrounded the idea that we can't necessarily change and control the circumstances around us, but we can change and control our attitudes about them. This all made sense to them and I think it got many of them thinking.
I think it was a good start of a conversation, but I don't know how to "continue" this work. I have no doubt that tomorrow or the next day they will start complaining again. Then what do I do?